The Raz: Tale of Two Shortstops

July 6, 2011

By Marc “The Raz” Rasbury

It is funny how fortunes can change in a (Harlem) New York minute. Two years ago, Derek Jeter was the King of New York while his Mets counter part, Jose Reyes, was being labeled an enigma. Jeter was leading the Yanks to their 27th World Series Championship whereas Reyes was nursing what was originally diagnosed as a hamstring strain that eventually turned into a year-long rehabilitation stint.

Now Reyes is being mentioned among the NL MVP candidates and some folks are trying to run Jeter out-of-town. In all fairness, it is not right to compare Jeter and Reyes at this stage of their careers. Jeter is ten years older than Reyes and accomplished more in his first five years than the Mets shortstop will most likely achieve in his lifetime. Not only did the Yankee Captain help lead the Bronx Bombers to four titles within that time, he did it with the style and grace similar to Joe DiMaggio. For almost two decades, he literally ruled the Streets of New York as well as the Major League baseball diamonds all over the country.

He only dated super models and movie stars as he consistently batted over .300 on his way to obtaining 3000 hits. For most of his career, Jeter batting statistics have been among MLB best. And defensively, he has been ranked among the top five players as far as fielding percentage is concerned.

It would be blasphemous to compare Reyes’ stats to Jeter’s even though the Captain had a ten-year head start. Reyes has had more than his share of highlights and exciting moments. The unfortunately thing for the Dominican Republican native is that they were few and far between them up until this year.

Managers, teammates and fans alike have accused the Mets shortstop of taking plays, innings and even seasons off. With all of his natural abilities, he still failed to make routine plays in the field or made bone headed mistakes on the bases. One minute he would look like the second coming of Ricky Henderson and then the next he would look like a confused minor leaguer. The extended stints on the DL did not make him a fan favorite either especially the afore-mentioned hamstring injury that nearly bridged two seasons.

So why Reyes is considered the best thing since slice bread this year? Perhaps it is because he is having one of best season in franchise history. He is batting over .345. He has morphed into a multi-base hitting machine. He is scoping up nearly every ball that is hit up the middle of the infield. And moreover, he has stayed healthy. He is the main reason why the Mets are still in contention this late in the season. If the season ended today he would most likely take home the NL MVP. He is making very difficult for Mets GM Sandy Alderman to let him just walk at the end of this year or even trading him before then. Last year, most Mets fans were looking forward to the day when Reyes’ contract would come off the books. Now they are begging Alderman to retain his services.

While most New Yorker’s are hoping Reyes stays in New York, and I mean on both sides of the Triborurgh Bridge, others are wondering why the Yankees are pacifying Jeter when it is clear that he is on the downside of his brilliant career.

Most of us agreed that the Yankees should have resigned Jeter this past off-season, maybe for a little less than what he got. But there is no question that he should be in a Yankee uniform for the foreseeable future. The only question that remains is why are the Yankees accommodating the Captain in this manner. He is clearly not the best option as the leadoff barter but he remains in that spot while batting only .260. Brett Gardner has excelled in that role and the Yankees have won seven out of nine games with Jeter out of the lineup. Are the Yankees sacrificing some team success at the expense of keeping Jeter happy?

Jeter has always come across as a player that only wants to do what is best for the team. If that is the case then he should accept being pitted in the six or seventh spot in the lineup. Should he remain adamant about batting first, it might cost the Yankees a couple of games. Can you imagine if the Yankees struggle with Jeter at the top of the order when he returns and the Yankees fail to make the post season by a game or two? It might not be fair or accurate but sometimes perception translates into reality. If the Yankees miss the playoffs, fans and media members will be looking for a reason why and they just might point the finger at Jeter. Then no matter what he did for the organization, it might be considered Yesterday’s News.

Like I said before, folks on both sides of the Tri-Borough hope that Reyes remains in New York. Obvious Mets fans want to keep Reyes, but there is also a contingent of Yankee fans that would not mind seeing Reyes in pinstripes. The Yankees are one of the few teams that can pay him the type of money that he is looking for, but I do not see that happening. That would be a slap in face to the Captain and he deserves to end his career in the Bronx. There will always be a place for Jeter in Yankee Nation as long he come to terms that he is on the back nine of his career.

One way or another, Reyes is going to get a nice contract. He may not get Carl Crawford-like money but he will not be applying for public assistance this winter. I have always been skeptical of players who have monster season in their walk year. And Reyes best weapons are his legs and all players’ speed deteriorates over time. I do not think Reyes will be stretching singles into triples five or six years from now. I would give him a front end loaded contract with a team option for the final two. But I don’t think Reyes’ ego will allow him to accept that. Then there is the thought that if a team gives Jose that huge payday, will he revert to that often-injured lackadaisical player that the fans at Shea and now Citi Field use to boo. The Reyes situation should make for some interesting developments over the next four to six months.

Jeter was once the crown jewel of the New York sports world. Now at the veteran age of 37, he is starting show some tarnish. Reyes once was considered a “Dog” now he is next hottest thing. Wow, how times have change. I truly expect Jeter to come through for the Yanks. I hope for Reyes that this season is not an aberration but a sign of things to come. Either way, this should make for some interesting developments as the season comes to a close.

Derek Jeter, Fathead
Derek Jeter, Fathead (Photo credits: PB Teen)

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